Partnerships between manufacturers and educators can power the state’s economy

580 200 Nadine Ono

Faraday Future's FF 91 car unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2017 (Photo: Maurizio Pesce/Flickr)

When a new electric car company Faraday Future chose Hanford, California as the location for its first manufacturing plant, the company was introduced to the region at the inaugural industrial summit organized by the South Valley Industrial Collaborative (SVIC). Faraday Future’s presence in the South San Joaquin Valley is a big boost to the region’s economy, as about 1,000 employees will be hired to build the company’s flagship model, the FF91. And SVIC had provided a platform for the company to quickly establish ties with local businesses, educational institutions and civic organizations.

To make sure the new employees are well-trained, Faraday Future turned to their local community colleges: College of Sequoias and West Hills College Lemoore. Both colleges are members of the SVIC and play a key role in upskilling incumbent workers in the Tulare and Kings Counties. The SVIC is dedicated to ensuring the economic success of the region through industry-led, industry-driven and community-supported partnerships.

“[Faraday Future] had a need as part of their on-boarding process,” said Jorge Zegarra, director of the College of the Sequoias Training Resource Center. “They were looking at our Essential Workplace Skills Training. So we developed this training with components of soft skills along with technical skills.” The company paid for both the training and the employees’ salaries during the one-week session.

SVIC is also making sure the region’s workforce is trained on new technologies and skills to allow them to move into higher positions.  “We all have this need for skilled workers. We also have vision to know that the skills of the workers that we have today are not necessarily going to be applicable five or ten years down the road,” said Bruce Nicotero, chairman of the industrial advisory to the Workforce Investment Board of Tulare County and the general manager of Jo-Ann Stores, LLC Visalia Distribution Center. “We’re doing everything that we can to work with educators, with different groups to make sure that they know what we need.”

According to Zegarra, these trainings will benefit the employees throughout their career. “Those skills go with employees, so they’re portable skills. Someone learning about lean manufacturing can apply those concepts not only at their current company, but any other company they end up working for.”

SVIC is one of many industry-led collaborations that are being created across the state according to Gurminder Sangha, Statewide Sector Navigator – Advanced Manufacturing, California Community Colleges. “A manufacturing renaissance is happening and everybody’s realizing the value of working collaboratively and in partnerships with their local community colleges, high schools and other key partners to develop the 21st-century workforce,” said Sangha. “And the best partnerships are where manufacturers and businesses lead the discussion, and collectively find solutions.”

The SVIC is holding its second annual industrial summit to bring together industry, education, workforce development boards and other key partners on November 14-15 in Tulare.

Industry-led organizations play a key role in bringing the focus to the collective work that enables regions to solve problems that impede industry growth and to assist businesses to remain competitive in the global markets. In addition to SVIC, Manufacturers’ Council of the Inland Empire, San Joaquin Valley Manufacturing Alliance, Association of Manufacturers Bay Area, Sacramento Valley Manufacturing Initiative and Northern California’s Grow Manufacturing Initiative have formed to grow manufacturing in California. Through these collaboratives, industry leaders are working with educational institutions including high school, community colleges and four-year universities, workforce development boards and economic development corporations to not only train the current and future labor force but also to bring new companies to their regions.

These organizations are also looking to the next generation of skilled workers by exposing high school students to local manufacturers through industry tours. The community colleges are also opening their doors to expose their current students and high school students to educational programs that will prepare them for careers in manufacturing. To continue to support the contribution manufacturers have made to the California’s economy, Governor Brown proclaimed the month of October as the “Manufacturing Appreciation and Awareness Month” for the second year in a row.

And, according to Nicotero, creating a skilled workforce is vital to a region’s economic success. “In order to attract new business to this area, we have to have skilled workers who can take these jobs when these new industries come in that have the newer technology.”

Creating pathways for a skilled workforce will be one of the main strategies to be sharpened at the 2018 California Economic Summit, which will be held in Santa Rosa on November 14-15.

“We are trying to create a manufacturing ecosystem in which career education is the focal point for all stakeholders collectively, with the one hope of making manufacturing be the future of California’s economic success,” said Sangha.


Nadine Ono

All stories by: Nadine Ono